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Medical cannabis

Medical cannabis will be available on prescription from 1 November 2018, UK government announces

Sajid Javid, the UK home secretary, has announced that medical cannabis will soon be rescheduled to Schedule 2, making it available on prescription.

Pots of medical cannabis

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Cannabis-based medical products will soon be “available for prescription in the same way as any other Schedule 2 drug”

Medical products derived from cannabis will be available on prescription from 1 November 2018, UK home secretary Sajid Javid has announced.

In a written ministerial statement, Javid confirmed that the Misuse of Drugs (Amendments) (Cannabis and Licence Fees) (England, Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2018 will “reschedule cannabis-based products for medicinal use”.

This means that patients will be able to receive cannabis-based medicine on prescription from 1 November 2018. The new law does not place limits on the type of conditions that cannabis may be prescribed for.

In the interim, Javid announced that an independent expert panel, led by Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England and chief medical adviser to the UK government, will remain in place to consider individual applications for medical cannabis licences.

The 2018 regulations, announced by the home secretary, define cannabis-based products as being a preparation or product which contains cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabinol or a cannabinol derivative that is produced for medicinal use in humans, and is a medicinal product, or a substance or preparation for use as an ingredient of, or in the production of an ingredient of, a medicinal product.

Under the regulations, unlicensed cannabis-derived medical products intended for use by a specific patient — known as ‘specials’ — may only be prescribed by a doctor listed on the specialist register of the General Medical Council. Once a product is licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, Javid said “it will be available for prescription in the same way as any other Schedule 2 drug”.

Javid said that the decision to reschedule medical cannabis has been made following advice from Davies and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. The latter will now conduct a long-term review of cannabis, Javid said, and added that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence will produce advice for clinicians by October 2018.

Ash Soni, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said today’s news “will be welcomed by many patients with serious health conditions”.

“The prospect of a future where safe and effective licensed cannabis-based medicines can be prescribed to help relieve suffering is genuinely exciting,” he said. “We will work with the NHS to help support specialists in making the right prescribing decisions”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205591

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